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Building transfers sensible

Transferring ownership of Pioneer Hall and the Community Center from the city to the Parks and Recreation Department makes sense for both entities, and would keep the buildings maintained as community resources.

Parks staff had recommended that the department take over Pioneer Hall after the City Council asked for proposals for what to do with the building. It has hosted an overnight homeless shelter in the winter months for five years, but it’s structurally deficient to withstand a heavy snow or ice storm, and the fire code requires sprinklers to continue using it for overnight accommodations.

The Parks Department already uses the building, paying the city $15,000 a year for the privilege as well as $13,000 a year for cleaning services and $3,000 in custodial staff time.

On Monday night, the Parks Commission directed staff to prepare a proposal for taking over both Pioneer Hall and the Community Center. The buildings’ proximity to Lithia Park make them a natural fit for Parks Department management. Also, the Parks Foundation could help raise money for the structural work needed to make Pioneer Hall safe for public use. Some of the renovation costs might be avoided if the building’s use does not change, Parks Director Michael Black said.

Rental fees for weddings and other events at both buildings could help defray the department’s costs and make them self-sufficient if not profitable.

Commissioners recommended the department ask the city for a transfer without cost, which make sense because the buildings would remain in public ownership.